Serena to play first match at Indian Wells since 2001 on Friday

by: AP | March 09, 2015

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The world No. 1 will face either Monica Niculescu or Alexsandra Krunic. (AP Photo)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) -- Top-ranked Serena Williams will play her first match at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night in her return to the tournament she has boycotted since 2001.

She will meet the winner of a first-round match between Monica Niculescu of Romania and Alexsandra Krunic of Serbia.

Williams brings an 11-match winning streak into the tournament she has won twice, including 2001. She received a wild card into this year's event and is the top seed on the women's side.

The draw projects Williams meeting third-ranked Simona Halep in the semifinals and second-ranked Maria Sharapova in the finals.

Williams also won the 1999 tournament for her first big title and later that year she won her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open as a 17-year-old.

Williams had repeatedly vowed never to return to Indian Wells after getting booed in 2001. She was to play a semifinal against sister Venus, who pulled out 20 minutes before the start with a knee injury. Serena was booed again while winning the final against Kim Clijsters. Her father said he heard racial slurs in the crowd.

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